National Institutes of Health

The NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world with a mission to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living system and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.

Foreign institutions may apply for direct funding under selected grant mechanisms at the NIH. Foreign institutions may also receive support through subcontracts or consortium agreements, as collaborators of investigators at US Institutions.

The information on this page is intended to help in understanding the grant system within the NIH and how to engage with the agency most productively.

For the latest policy updates visit: Note that some Institutes and Centers may have their own requirements.

NIH Funder Updates


Key advice

  • Key Advice Before You Begin
    • Identify the appropriate funding opportunity announcement
      • The National Institutes of Health is comprised of 27 centers and institutes, each with a specific research agenda and aligning funding opportunities
      • Engage with the program officer to ensure that your research concept aligns with the priorities and goals of the funding opportunity and the center or institute
      • Contact Blake Plowman with assistance in identifying a funding opportunity and/or engaging with the NIH
    • Strategise
      • Do an NIH RePORTER search to see who is working/what is being funded by NIH in your research area
  • Proposal Development
    • The SF424 Application Guide is the official application instruction guidance
    • Read your funding opportunity announcement carefully as it may offer more specific or alternative application instructions. The FOA instructions always supersede the SF424 Application Guide instructions.
  • Proposal Review
    • The NIH seeks to maintain transparent review process. The guidance provided to NIH reviewers is made publicly available
    • Your proposal will be reviewed based on the following criteria:
      • Significance: Does the study address an important problem?
      • Approach: Is the design/method appropriate?
      • Innovation: Is the project original?
      • Investigators: Are they suitable to carry out the work?
      • Environment: Does the environment (facilities) contribute to the likelihood of success

    While these categories are not weighted, the NIH data says the Approach Score is most closely correlated with the impact score. The impact score is what determines funding.

  • Scoring
    • The NIH Scoring System
      • The NIH uses a 9-point case for both overall impact score and scores for individual review criteria.

    Overall Impact or Criterion Strength












    Very Good












    • Impact Score.  The Overall Impact: The likelihood for a project to exert sustained, powerful influence on a review score

    Overall Impact





    1  2  3

    4  5  6

    7  8  9

    High: e.g. applications are addressing a problem of high importance/interest in the field. May have some or no weaknesses

    Medium: e.g. applications may be addressing a problem of high importance in the field, but weaknesses in the criteria bring down the overall impact to a medium

    e.g. applications may be addressing a problem of moderate importance in the field, with some or no weaknesses

    Low: e.g. applications may be addressing a problem of moderate/high importance in the field but weaknesses in the criteria bring down the overall impact to low

    e.g. applications may be addressing a problem of low or no importance in the field, with some or no weaknesses

  • Connecting with the NIH
    • Contact Program Officers. Typically begin with an email and 1-page outline of your research, to be follow-up with a phone call. Contact Blake Plowman for help navigating the institutes and coordinating initial connections.
    • NIH Regional Seminars: Each year, the Office of Extramural Research (OER) sponsors the NIH Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration. These seminars are intended to help demystify the application and review process, clarify Federal regulations and policies, and highlight current areas of special interest or concern.
  • Accepting and Managing NIH funding

    Other Support guidance

    Due to changes to NIH policy, Other Support documents will be required at the time of new NIH awards (Just In Time reporting), all Annual reporting (Research Performance Progress Reports, RPPRs).

    1. Other Support document should be filled in accurately by the responsible CI according to the provided NIH template, signed and time stamped electronically by the relevant CI and submitted in line with NIH reporting guidelines.
    2. If you are leading an award, Other Support declarations and documents must be provided from all Senior/Key Personnel named on the NIH award. NIH has an obligation to keep documents confidential.
    3. If you are non-lead on an award, Other Support documents will be requested for submission by the Lead CI. If you or a partner named on a contract have a confidentiality concern, contact and a member of the team will advocate for submission directly to the NIH. NIH has an obligation to keep documents confidential.
    4. NIH will not accept wet signatures, or pictures of wet signatures. The following links may be helpful in determining an acceptable signature format:
    5. Note that disclosure may be required for some in-kind resources. Consult the NIH guidelines.
    6. The University has adopted the approach that copies of contract copies are provided:
      1. only under specific request by NIH (e.g. after the Other Support documentation is submitted and reviewed by NIH),
      2. and are limited to employment or appointment documents where an organisation other than the University of Melbourne is the contracting organisation. An example would be an honorary based at an Medical Research Institute (MRI) or a grant-funded fellowship
    7. If there are questions or concerns on this policy, contact indicating your specific query.